After all, it is where he became the nation’s first-ever world champion in sports, and later, the second two-division ONE World Champion. Also, he was able to work with underprivileged children in Yangon as a Global Citizen Ambassador, and encourage them to pursue their education and change their lives.
Those are all proud moments in Aung La N Sang’s life. However, the hero’s most recent trip back home holds an extra special place in his heart.
In March, just a few weeks after capturing the ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship in front of his countrymen at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, “The Burmese Python” returned to Myanmar to do more charity, as well as fulfill some media and sponsorship obligations.
With this in mind, he made it a family affair. He used this as an opportunity to bring his wife, Katie, and their son, Aung De to Myanmar so they could meet his extended family. In addition to that, he wanted to show them where he spent his childhood.
For Aung La N Sang, who now lives in Maryland, USA, it was crucial for his little family to connect with his roots.
“In the USA, especially life in Maryland, it is so different from Myitkyina, Myanmar,” the 32-year-old begins. “I do not think my wife and my son will know who I really am without experiencing the life where I was born. It is day and night. You cannot really understand someone that well unless you know where they are from.”
Aung La N Sang’s epic adventure began at the airport, both literally and figuratively. His wife had an extra weeks’ worth of work at her day job, so “The Burmese Python” spent the first portion of the trip solely with Aung De. They traveled to Myanmar, just the two of them, and would meet up with Katie in a mere 10 days.
The world champion feels that was particularly important, because it afforded him valuable time to bond with his son on a personal level, and allowed him to make up for the time they lost during his eight week training camp in anticipation of his light heavyweight world title bout.
“I missed out on a lot of things while I was gone for training camp, so I wanted to reconnect with him,” Aung La N Sang explains. “It was great traveling with him, because he is a pretty easygoing 2-year-old. He is very attached to me, but he does not fuss much, and he is a great kid overall.
“To me, it is important that I spend one-on-one time with Aung De, because I want him to grow up knowing that I’ve got his back, and I want him to know that he can ask me [anything], and count on me for everything.”
For the next week, the father-son duo spent a lot time together, especially in Yangon. Aung De escorted his dad to photo shoots, visited aid groups, and even tagged along during his father’s seminars at Phoe Thaw’s martial arts school, Team PT.
It would appear that the youngster thoroughly enjoyed bonding with his father, and exploring all that the “Golden Land” had to offer.
“Aung De loved it in Myanmar. He had a blast,” Aung La N Sang says. “There was not a single day he did not have a blast. He loved the raw beauty of the country. He loved the animals running around, the food he ate, and also his little cousins.”
Also, while in Yangon, Aung La N Sang spoke at the Parami Institute Of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and continued to motivate the youth to follow their dreams, and help make a difference in their nation.
“The Parami Institute is doing big things in Myanmar,” the hero begins. “They are an NGO (non-governmental organization) that offers a US accredited post-graduate degree. They are going to different states and into small villages to find bright minds, and provide them with high-level education.
“I believe educating the youth will add value to the next generation. The kids are there from different parts of the country, and they are looking to better their lives and those around them.”
Despite his obligations, Aung La N Sang made sure to spend time with his family. Once Katie arrived, the family of three went to Myitkyina, where they made some lasting memories the world champion will not ever forget.
The national icon’s parents held a massive celebration for their son. Not only did Aung La N Sang’s extended family arrive to meet Katie and Aung De, but people from all around the town greeted them, and joined in the festivities.
“There was a welcoming party for my wife and son, and we invited our friends and our relatives. We killed two cows for the feast, and over a thousand people showed up at our house for the party,” Aung La N Sang recalls.
“It was pretty magical, it was like my present life meeting my past life – present family from the United States meeting my family and friends from the past.
“My heart just melted when I saw how much my grandparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts loved Katie and Aung De, and how they love them as well.”
Also, he got to introduce his wife and son to a dear woman who sold rice cakes from a basket she carries on her head. This was a pleasant surprise, yet it was an extremely important moment to Aung La N Sang, because this is the same lady he bought rice cakes from as a child growing up in Myitkyina.
This was another piece of his childhood that his wife and son were fortunate to experience for themselves. And, in a way, the whole point of this family trip.
“I ate her snacks as long as I can remember, when I lived there,” he remembers.
“She walks around my town, and all the neighboring towns. Every morning she sells them, and it does not matter if it rains or shines. It was amazing to hear her as I was waking up. I jumped out of bed, stood out the balcony, and yelled for her. And then, I woke my family up, and introduced them to her, and we bought her snacks.
“The rice treat, the fried tofu, and fried lentil cake was delicious, and eating it brought back happy childhood memories when I was carefree. I shared the meal with my wife and my son. It made me happy to my soul.”
“The Burmese Python” wanted to share his Myanmar upbringing with the people who he loves the most in this world, and now he feels like they understand him better than ever. This was a magical trip, indeed, and one that he will remember for the rest of his days.